We need a paradigm shift in the West that would pave the way for a genuine Northern Alliance of Russia, Europe, and North America, as all three face similar existential threats in the decades ahead. In an uncertain and ever more brutal world, the Northerners may finally consider banding together, lest they be defeated in detail. - The North Worth Saving
His comment is in reply to the post immediately below. I thought it deserved a post of its own:
This is my fight too against the Cassianists. I am an Anglo-Catholic in the ACC who is a classical Augustinian. Not a Calvinist, not a Lutheran, not a Jansenist. I am an Anglican who believes in Predestination as defined in Romans & Ephesians, re-affirmed in the 2nd Council of Orange, the Councils of Valence and Quiercy. Calvin and Luther were right to accept this biblical and catholic teaching - so this doctrine predates these Reformers. There is a great army of scholars, doctors, and confessors of the Church that embraced unconditional election.
One would have to be blind, ignorant, or dishonest to not see the Prayer Book is heavily influenced by the theology of grace of St. Augustine. I get it, there is a strong Arminian (if not outright semi-Pelagian) streak in post-17th century Anglicanism. But I account this more an infatuation less with the biblical text than with certain philosophically-minded Greek theologians. It is a fond tradition which understandably seeks to exonerate God from unrighteousness dealings with mankind; but it falls short of the whole counsel of Sacred Scripture. I also note how utterly unfamiliar many of the detractors are of the Augustinian theological tradition and literary output. I will stop believing in unconditional Predestination once Romans 8 & 9, Ephesians 1, John 6, and Acts 13 have been expunged from the canon.
I do not fault the English Arminians for being concerned about the possible antinomian ramifications of Calvinism (though antinomianism seems more prevalent in the Lutheran Reformation). Nor do I fault them for opposing the radical Calvinists' desire to turn the Church of England into a Presbyterian church. I am glad they won that battle and that "Anglicanism" prevailed. As we can see from its ultimate fate in New England, Puritanism contained the seeds of its own destruction.
However, like you I believe the Caroline divines threw the apostolic baby out with the radical bathwater. As you've correctly noted, another part of the Caroline reaction to Calvinism was rooted in its desire to "exonerate God from unrighteousness dealings with mankind." That is, in a nutshell, the thing that still today provides the emotional fuel for the Arminian objection to the Pauline-Augustinian doctrine of unconditional election. The problem is, that is precisely the objection of Paul's hypothetical opponent in Romans 9: 14, 19-20.
That being said, the Caroline divines and the Oxford fathers after them were right to stress need a for personal holiness that is developed in the prayer and sacramental life of the church, because that's apostolic and catholic teaching as well. It's tragic that so many of the divisions in the church stem from the division of oftentimes paradoxical biblical doctrines that are meant to be held together. Protestants went on an anti-sacramentalist trajectory that is rooted in a juridical understanding of the Atonement, while "Cassianist" Catholics are on a sacramentalist one that is based on the incorporationist theology of the Incarnation. The person and work of Christ cannot be divided, however. Because of what He did on the cross, those who look to that cross in fiducia receive the sentence from heaven, "No Condemnation!" But the Bible is equally clear that we are to "become what we are" through a discipline of holiness, worked out in the context of the church, in which (if done "proficiently") we enter into deeper union with Christ, and through Christ with the Most Holy Trinity. "Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord." (Heb. 12:14, NASB)
And this is also why, as Anglicans, we need to affirm the Augustinianism of the English Reformers along with the "Cassianism" of the Caroline divines and the Tractarians.
Allow me to preface this post by saying that I am using "Cassianist" in this entry and the one immediately below not in a pejorative sense but in a purely descriptive one. I happen to like St. John Cassian, but I use his name as a descriptor here of the anti-Augustinianism that has always been associated with his name and which has long pervaded much of Catholic Christianity. By "Reformational" Catholic, I mean this.
Speaking of my own ecclesial family, I would find "Cassianism" in those Anglo-Catholics whose view of grace seems limited to that of a strictly mediated kind, which is to say that "womb-to-tomb" sort of grace that is dispensed through the sacraments and prayer life of the Church. That kind of mediated grace is distinguishable from the unmediated, sovereign grace given to certain people, which I describe here. I don't deny that grace is mediated by the sacraments and prayer life of the Church; I simply argue, against the "Cassianists", that their view of grace does not represent the whole apostolic and Catholic picture. What we have in the Bible is not simply an incorporationist soteriology rooted in the Incarnation, but a juridical one as well rooted in the transaction that occurred on the Cross. These two soteriologies should not be viewed in any way as contradictory, but rather complementary. The apostolic writers did not contradict themselves.
This article from the Catholic Encyclopedia describes the role that patristic catenae have played in advancing arguments of Catholic Christian apologists and scholars. Such catenae were used both by the English Reformers, Caroline Divines and the Tractarians in various arguments against their opponents. Which raises an interesting question: How is it that quotations from the Church Fathers can be used in support of seemingly contradictory theological positions? Take this catena, for instance, on the Fathers and sola fide:
Clement of Rome (30-100): “All these (saints of old), therefore, were highly honoured, and made great, not for their own sake, or for their own works, or for the righteousness which they wrought, but through the operation of His will. And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”
Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus (c. 130): “He gave His own Son as a ransom for us, the holy One for transgressors, the blameless One for the wicked, the righteous One for the unrighteous, the incorruptible One for the corruptible, the immortal One for them that are mortal. For what other thing was capable of covering our sins than His righteousness? By what other one was it possible that we, the wicked and ungodly, could be justified, than by the only Son of God? O sweet exchange! O unsearchable operation! O benefits surpassing all expectation! That the wickedness of many should be hid in a single righteous One, and that the righteousness of One should justify many transgressors!”
Justin Martyr (100-165) speaks of “those who repented, and who no longer were purified by the blood of goats and of sheep, or by the ashes of an heifer, or by the offerings of fine flour, but by faith through the blood of Christ, and through His death.”
Source: Justin, Dialogue with Trypho, 13.
St. Irenaeus: “Human beings can be saved from the ancient serpent in no other way than by believing in him who, when he was raised up from the earth on the tree of martyrdom in the likeness of sinful flesh, drew all things to himself and gave life to the dead.”
Source: (Against the Heresies, IV, 2, 7)
Origen (185-254): “For God is just, and therefore he could not justify the unjust. Therefore he required the intervention of a propitiator, so that by having faith in Him those who could not be justified by their own works might be justified.”
Source: Origen, Commentary on Romans, 2.112.
Origen: “A man is justified by faith. The works of the law can make no contribution to this. Where there is no faith which might justify the believer, even if there are works of the law these are not based on the foundation of faith. Even if they are good in themselves they cannot justify the one who does them, because faith is lacking, and faith is the mark of those who are justified by God.”
Source: Origen, Commentary on Romans, 2.136.
Hilary of Poitiers (300-368): “Wages cannot be considered as a gift, because they are due to work, but God has given free grace to all men by the justification of faith.”
Source: Hilary, Commentary on Matthew (on Matt. 20:7)
Hilary of Poitiers: “It disturbed the scribes that sin was forgiven by a man (for they considered that Jesus Christ was only a man) and that sin was forgiven by Him whereas the Law was not able to absolve it, since faith alone justifies.”
Source: Hilary, Commentary on Matthew (on Matt. 9:3)
Didymus the Blind (c. 313-398) “A person is saved by grace, not by works but by faith. There should be no doubt but that faith saves and then lives by doing its own works, so that the works which are added to salvation by faith are not those of the law but a different kind of thing altogether.”
Source: Didymus the Blind. Commentary on James, 2:26b.
Basil of Caesarea (329-379): “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord, that Christ has been made by God for us righteousness, wisdom, justification, redemption. This is perfect and pure boasting in God, when one is not proud on account of his own righteousness but knows that he is indeed unworthy of the true righteousness and is justified solely by faith in Christ.”
Source: Basil, Homily on Humility, 20.3.
Jerome (347–420): “We are saved by grace rather than works, for we can give God nothing in return for what he has bestowed on us.”
Source: Jerome, Epistle to the Ephesians, 1.2.1.
St. Jerome: “Paul shows clearly that righteousness depends not on the merit of man but on the grace of God, who accepts the faith of those who believe without the works of the law.”
Source: (Against the Pelagians)
Jerome: "[When Paul writes] by grace you have been saved through faith, he says this in case the secret thought should steal upon us that 'if we are not saved by our own works, at least we are saved by our own faith, and so in another way our salvation is of ourselves.; Thus he added the statement that faith too is not in our own will but in God's gift. Not that he means to take away free choice from humanity...but that even this very freedom of choice has God as its author, and all things are to be referred to his generosity, in that he has even allowed us to will the good."
Jerome (on Romans 10:3): “God justifies by faith alone.”
Cyril of Alexandria: "What can we say to those who insist that Abraham was justified by works because he was ready to sacrifice his son Isaac on the altar? Abraham was already an old man when God promised him that he would have a son and that his descendants would be as countless as the stars of the sky. Abraham piously believed that all things are possible with God and so exercised this faith. God reckoned him to be righteous on this account and gave Abraham a reward worthy of such a godly mind, viz., the forgiveness of his previous sins...So even if Abraham was also justified by his willingness to sacrifice Isaac, this must be regarded as an evident demonstration of a faith which was already very strong."
John Chrysostom (349-407): “For Scripture says that faith has saved us. Put better: Since God willed it, faith has saved us. Now in what case, tell me, does faith save without itself doing anything at all? Faith’s workings themselves are a gift of God, lest anyone should boast. What then is Paul saying? Not that God has forbidden works but that he has forbidden us to be justified by works. No one, Paul says, is justified by works, precisely in order that the grace and benevolence of God may become apparent.”
Source: John Chrysostom, Homilies on Ephesians, 4.2.9.
John Chrysostom: “But what is the ‘law of faith?’ It is, being saved by grace. Here he shows God’s power, in that He has not only saved, but has even justified, and led them to boasting, and this too without needing works, but looking for faith only.”
Source: John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans, 7.27.
John Chrysostom: “God allowed his Son to suffer as if a condemned sinner, so that we might be delivered from the penalty of our sins. This is God’s righteousness, that we are not justified by works (for then they would have to be perfect, which is impossible), but by grace, in which case all our sin is removed.”
Source: John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Epistles of Paul to the Corinthians, 11.5.
John Chrysostom: "The purpose of the law was to make man righteous, but it had no power to do that. But when faith came it achieved what the law could not do, for once a man believes he is immediately justified."
John Chrysostom: “Everywhere he puts the Gentiles upon a thorough equality. ‘And put no difference between us and them, having purified their hearts by faith.’ (v. 9.) From faith alone, he says, they obtained the same gifts. This is also meant as a lesson to those (objectors); this is able to teach even them that faith only is needed, not works nor circumcision.”
Source: John Chrysostom, Homilies on Acts, 32 (regarding Acts 15:1)
John Chrysostom: “What then was it that was thought incredible? That those who were enemies, and sinners, neither justified by the law, nor by works, should immediately through faith alone be advanced to the highest favor. Upon this head accordingly Paul has discoursed at length in his Epistle to the Romans, and here again at length. “This is a faithful saying,” he says, “and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”
Source: John Chrysostom, Homilies on 1 Timothy, 4.1.
John Chrysostom: “”For it is most of all apparent among the Gentiles, as he also says elsewhere, ‘And that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy.’ (Romans 15:9.) For the great glory of this mystery is apparent among others also, but much more among these. For, on a sudden, to have brought men more senseless than stones to the dignity of Angels, simply through bare words, and faith alone, without any laboriousness, is indeed glory and riches of mystery: just as if one were to take a dog, quite consumed with hunger and the mange, foul, and loathsome to see, and not so much as able to move, but lying cast out, and make him all at once into a man, and to display him upon the royal throne.”
Source: John Chrysostom, Homilies on Colossians, 5.2.
John Chrysostom: “Now since the Jews kept turning over and over the fact, that the Patriarch, and friend of God, was the first to receive circumcision, he wishes to show, that it was by faith that he too was justified. And this was quite a vantage ground to insist upon. For a person who had no works, to be justified by faith, was nothing unlikely. But for a person richly adorned with good deeds, not to be made just from hence, but from faith, this is the thing to cause wonder, and to set the power of faith in a strong light.”
Source: John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans, 8.1.
John Chrysostom: “They said that he who adhered to faith alone was cursed; but he, Paul, shows that he who adhered to faith alone is blessed.”
Source: St. John Chrysostom (First Corinthians, Homily 20)
John Chrysostom: “For you believe the faith; why then do you add other things, as if faith were not sufficient to justify? You make yourselves captive, and you subject yourself to the law.”
Source: - St. John Chrysostom (Epistle to Titus, Homily 3)
John Chrysostom: “To declare His righteousness.' What is declaring of righteousness? Like the declaring of His riches, not only for Him to be rich Himself, but also to make others rich, or of life, not only that He is Himself living, but also that He makes the dead to live; and of His power, not only that He is Himself powerful, but also that He makes the feeble powerful. So also is the declaring of His righteousness not only that He is Himself righteous, but that He doth also make them that are filled with the putrefying sores of sin suddenly righteous. And it is to explain this, viz. what is .declaring,' that he has added, .That He might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus' [Rom. 3:26]. Doubt not then: for it is not of works, but of faith: and shun not the righteousness of God, for it is a blessing in two ways; because it is easy, and also open to al l men. And be not abashed and shamefaced. For if He Himself openly declareth Himself to do so, and He, so to say, findeth a delight and a pride therein, how comest thou to be dejected and to hide thy face at what thy Master glorieth in?”
Source:- St. John Chrysostom (Homilies on Romans 3)
John Chrysostom: “What is the principle of faith? This is salvation by grace. Here Paul shows God's power in that He has not only saved, He has also justified and led them to boast in a different way - not relying on works but glorying only in their faith.”
Source:- St. John Chrysostom (Homilies on Romans 7)
St. Ambrose of Milan: “We should believe both that we should be penitent and that we shall be pardoned, in such a way that we hope for pardon from faith just as faith obtains it from the written agreement.”
Source: (On Penitence Against the Novatians, II:9)
St. Ambrose of Milan: “But when the Lord Jesus came, He forgave all men that sin which none could escape, and blotted out the handwriting against us by the shedding of His own Blood. This then is the Apostle's meaning; sin abounded by the Law, but grace abounded by Jesus; for after that the whole world became guilty, He took away the sin of the whole world, as John bore witness, saying: Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. Wherefore let no man glory in works, for by his works no man shall be justified, for he that is just hath a free gift, for he is justified by the Bath [Baptism]. It is faith then which delivers by the blood of Christ, for Blessed is the man to whom sin is remitted, and, pardon granted.”
Source: (letter 73, to Irenaeus, a layman)
Augustine (354-430): “If Abraham was not justified by works, how was he justified? The apostle goes on to tell us how: What does scripture say? (that is, about how Abraham was justified). Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness (Rom. 4:3; Gen. 15:6). Abraham, then, was justified by faith. Paul and James do not contradict each other: good works follow justification.”
Fuller text: “Not so our father Abraham. This passage of scripture is meant to draw our attention to the difference. We confess that the holy patriarch was pleasing to God; this is what our faith affirms about him. So true is it that we can declare and be certain that he did have grounds for pride before God, and this is what the apostle tells us. It is quite certain, he says, and we know it for sure, that Abraham has grounds for pride before God. But if he had been justified by works, he would have had grounds for pride, but not before God. However, since we know he does have grounds for pride before God, it follows that he was not justified on the basis of works. So if Abraham was not justified by works, how was he justified?” The apostle goes on to tell us how: What does scripture say? (that is, about how Abraham was justified). Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness (Rom. 4:3; Gen. 15:6). Abraham, then, was justified by faith. Paul and James do not contradict each other: good works follow justification.
3. Now when you hear this statement, that justification comes not from works, but by faith, remember the abyss of which I spoke earlier. You see that Abraham was justified not by what he did, but by his faith: all right then, so I can do whatever I like, because even though I have no good works to show, but simply believe in God, that is reckoned to me as righteousness? Anyone who has said this and has decided on it as a policy has already fallen in and sunk; anyone who is still considering it and hesitating is in mortal danger. But God’s scripture, truly understood, not only safeguards an endangered person, but even hauls up a drowned one from the deep. My advice is, on the face of it, a contradiction of what the apostle says; what I have to say about Abraham is what we find in the letter of another apostle, who set out to correct people who had misunderstood Paul. James in his letter opposed those who would not act rightly but relied on faith alone; and so he reminded them of the good works of this same Abraham whose faith was commended by Paul. The two apostles are not contradicting each other. James dwells on an action performed by Abraham that we all know about: he offered his son to God as a sacrifice. That is a great work, but it proceeded from faith. I have nothing but praise for the superstructure of action, but I see the foundation of faith; I admire the good work as a fruit, but I recognize that it springs from the root of faith. If Abraham had done it without right faith it would have profited him nothing, however noble the work was. On the other hand, if Abraham had been so complacent in his faith that, on hearing God’s command to offer his son as a sacrificial victim, he had said to himself, “No, I won’t. But I believe that God will set me free, even if I ignore his orders,” his faith would have been a dead faith because it did not issue in right action, and it would have remained a barren, dried-up root that never produced fruit.” (John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., WSA, Part 3, Vol. 15, trans. Maria Boulding, O.S.B., Expositions of the Psalms 1-32, Exposition 2 of Psalm 31, 2-4 (Hyde Park: New City Press, 2000), pp. 364-365._
Source: Augustine, Exposition 2 of Psalm 31, 2-4.
Augustine: “When someone believes in him who justifies the impious, that faith is reckoned as justice to the believer, as David too declares that person blessed whom God has accepted and endowed with righteousness, independently of any righteous actions (Rom 4:5-6). What righteousness is this? The righteousness of faith, preceded by no good works, but with good works as its consequence.”
Source: Augustine, Exposition 2 of Psalm 31, 6-7.
Augustine: “Justification is obtained by faith. ... By the law we fear God, by faith we hope in God. But to those who fear punishment grace is hidden; laboring under this fear, the soul by faith flees to the mercy of God, that He may give what He commands”
Source: St. Augustine of Hippo (The Spirit and the Letter)
Augustine: “How should the law be upheld if not by righteousness? By a righteousness, moreover, which is of faith, for what could not be fulfilled through the law is fulfilled through faith.”
Source: St. Augustine of Hippo (Augustine on Romans)
Ambrosiaster (fourth century): “God has decreed that a person who believes in Christ can be saved without works. By faith alone he receives the forgiveness of sins.”
Source: Ambrosiaster, Commentary on 1 Corinthians 1:4.
Ambrosiaster: “They are justified freely because they have not done anything nor given anything in return, but by faith alone they have been made holy by the gift of God.”
Source: Ambrosiaster, Commentary on Romans 3:24.
Ambrosiaster: “Paul tells those who live under the law that they have no reason to boast basing themselves on the law and claiming to be of the race of Abraham, seeing that no one is justified before God except by faith.”
Source: Ambrosiaster, Commentary on Romans 3:27.
Ambrosiaster: “God gave what he promised in order to be revealed as righteous. For he had promised that he would justify those who believe in Christ, as he says in Habakkuk: ‘The righteous will live by faith in me’ (Hab. 2:4). Whoever has faith in God and Christ is righteous.”
Source: Ambrosiaster, Commentary on Paul’s Epistles; CSEL 81 ad loc.
Ambrosiaster: "Paul revealed that Abraham had glory before God not because he was circumcised nor because he abstained from evil, but because he believed in God. For that reason he was justified, and he would receive the reward of praise in the future."
Marius Victorinus (fourth century): “The fact that you Ephesians are saved is not something that comes from yourselves. It is the gift of God. It is not from your works, but it is God’s grace and God’s gift, not from anything you have deserved. … We did not receive things by our own merit but by the grace and goodness of God.”
Source: Marius Victorinus, Epistle to the Ephesians, 1.2.9.
Prosper of Aquitaine (390–455): “And just as there are no crimes so detestable that they can prevent the gift of grace, so too there can be no works so eminent that they are owed in condign [deserved] judgment that which is given freely. Would it not be a debasement of redemption in Christ’s blood, and would not God’s mercy be made secondary to human works, if justification, which is through grace, were owed in view of preceding merits, so that it were not the gift of a Donor, but the wages of a laborer?”
Source: Prosper of Acquitaine, Call of All Nations, 1.17
Theodoret of Cyrus (393–457): “The Lord Christ is both God and the mercy seat, both the priest and the lamb, and he performed the work of our salvation by his blood, demanding only faith from us.”
Source: Theodoret of Cyrus, Interpretation of the Letter to the Romans; PG 82 ad loc.
Theodoret of Cyrus: “All we bring to grace is our faith. But even in this faith, divine grace itself has become our enabler. For [Paul] adds, ‘And this is not of yourselves but it is a gift of God; not of works, lest anyone should boast’ (Eph. 2:8–9). It is not of our own accord that we have believed, but we have come to belief after having been called; and even when we had come to believe, He did not require of us purity of life, but approving mere faith, God bestowed on us forgiveness of sins”.
Source: Theodoret of Cyrus, Interpretation of the Fourteen Epistles of Paul; FEF 3:248–49, sec. 2163.
Cyril of Alexandria (412-444): “For we are justified by faith, not by works of the law, as Scripture says. By faith in whom, then, are we justified? Is it not in Him who suffered death according to the flesh for our sake? Is it not in one Lord Jesus Christ?”
Source: Cyril of Alexandria, Against Nestorius, 3.62
Fulgentius (462–533): “The blessed Paul argues that we are saved by faith, which he declares to be not from us but a gift from God. Thus there cannot possibly be true salvation where there is no true faith, and, since this faith is divinely enabled, it is without doubt bestowed by his free generosity. Where there is true belief through true faith, true salvation certainly accompanies it. Anyone who departs from true faith will not possess the grace of true salvation.”
Source: Fulgentius, On the Incarnation, 1; CCL 91:313.
Bede (673-735): “Although the apostle Paul preached that we are justified by faith without works, those who understand by this that it does not matter whether they live evil lives or do wicked and terrible things, as long as they believe in Christ, because salvation is through faith, have made a great mistake. James here expounds how Paul’s words ought to be understood. This is why he uses the example of Abraham, whom Paul also used as an example of faith, to show that the patriarch also performed good works in the light of his faith. It is therefore wrong to interpret Paul in such a way as to suggest that it did not matter whether Abraham put his faith into practice or not. What Paul meant was that no one obtains the gift of justification on the basis of merits derived from works performed beforehand, because the gift of justification comes only from faith.”
Source: Cited from the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (ed. Gerald Bray), NT, vol. 11, p. 31.
St. Bernard of Clairvaux: “You must believe, first of all, that you cannot have the forgiveness of sins except by the forbearance of God; but add further that you also believe that through Him your sins are forgiven. This is the witness that the Holy Spirit brings in your heart, saying, .Your sins are forgiven you.' For thus the apostle [Paul] concludes, that a man is justified freely by faith.”
Source: (Sermon on the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary)
I think I know how my "Cassianist" readers would answer this. Here I'm simply trying to show that patristic catenae can be and have been used by Protestants to support sola fide (Article XI), just as such catenae can be and have been used to support positions held by Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christians. Not that the Fathers necessarily held to a "Lutheran" view of sola fide, only that in many of their commentaries they are using language that appears very "Lutheran", and that maybe there's an argument for a form of sola fide that Catholic Christians can accept. If the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification tells us anything, it is that the Roman Catholic Church has shown itself willing to engage in serious conversations with the Lutherans. I hope one day other Catholic Christians will follow suit.
I've made several recently, the most recent of which reads as follows:
I name as the patron of this blog Bernard of Clairvaux, "Augustine redivivus" per Adolf von Harnack, Doctor of the Catholic Church, inspirer of Martin Luther, Cistercian abbot, and championer of the Knights Templar.
To the extent that Bernard was on target WRT his views on grace, monasticism and armed resistance to Islamic tyranny, a number of things discomfiting to "Cassianist" Catholics (Roman, Orthodox and Anglo), Protestants and pacifists would appear to follow. (Y'all know who you are. ;) )
With apparent reference to my previous blog entry:
On the term ‘Anglican Catholic’: in the United States ‘Anglican Catholic’ is a registered service mark of the Anglican Catholic Church. That is, it is the ACC's property and may not be used by others without infringing on the ACC's rights. The term is also protected internationally in many places under the Madrid Protocol. The ACC registered its name in part with the experience of the Roman Catholic Church in mind. ‘Roman Catholic’ was not registered by the Roman Church, and people with no connection to the papacy are free to call themselves, misleadingly, Roman Catholic. The ACC has no wish to be unfriendly or difficult. The name ‘Anglican Church of North America’ was used by the ACC long before ACNA came along and is preserved in our Constitution and Canons. Since we did not actively use the ACNA name, however, we made and make no objection to its use by others. But we do object when others use ‘Anglican Catholic’ and, particulary when the use is by ecclesial bodies with no relation to us, insist on our service mark rights.
Thanks for letting me know, Your Grace. I had a discussion with Fr. Munn a few months ago in which the term "Anglican Catholic" appeared to be used in a more generic sense, as a synonym, I thought, for "Anglo-Catholic." I appreciate your setting the record straight.
This article from Fr. Jonathan Mitchican, who blogs as The Conciliar Anglican, almost got by me. What he says in this article corresponds with my own understanding, which is that classical Anglicanism "can, perhaps uniquely, lay equal claim to the appellations Protestant and Catholic and affirm both without any sense of inconsistency or incoherence". It is possible -- I would say preferable -- for classical, Protestant Anglicans to understand themselves as in every good sense of the word "Catholic", and thus brethren of Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Christians. It is also possible for Anglo-Catholics aka "Anglican Catholics" to espouse the Articles as a Catholic confession, yes, time-bound in certain respects, but a Catholic confession nonetheless. From the article:
Heylyn . . . went on to imply that we ought to read the Articles the same way we read the Scriptures, by seeking their meaning in the context of the historical teaching of the Church and plain reason. This follows the position of many of the best and brightest minds in the Church of England in the seventeenth century, including William Beveridge whose brilliant Ecclessia Anglicana Ecclesia Catholica systematically explained each of the 39 Articles using just such an approach.
Tract 90 Blows Up the World
Such an appeal to the primitive Church is consonant with Anglo-Catholic ideals as well, and yet the Articles are thoroughly rejected by many if not most Anglo-Catholics today who have come to accept the same Calvinist interpretation of the Articles that Heylyn attempted to debunk so many centuries ago. Historically, it is not hard to see how such a disregard and even disdain for the Articles developed. In 1841, John Henry Newman’s Tract 90 attempted to convince people of a Catholic interpretation of the Articles, but instead it set off such a firestorm within the Church and English society that Newman never quite recovered from the shock. It became the catalyst for his eventual conversion to Rome.
Admittedly, Tract 90 is a flawed document that sometimes works exactly the kind of magic upon the Articles that Heylyn accused the Calvinists in his day of supplying. Rather than starting with the plain sense of the Articles themselves, the tract starts with a desire to show that the Articles are not quite as unreceptive to Catholic ideas as they might appear. For this reason, both Newman’s supporters and critics have often conceded far too quickly that Newman did not really believe in the Articles, that he was simply trying to make them workable for his already established position. This, however, fails to account not only for Newman’s surprise and despair upon seeing how others reacted to his tract, but also his longstanding defense of the Articles prior to the tract’s writing. In 1834, when Dr. Renn Hampden began arguing that Oxford University ought to do away with its requirement that students subscribe to the 39 Articles, Newman wrote an excoriating fifty page essay called Elucidations in which he defended subscription to the Articles as a good and necessary part of living under the Church’s authority. Many other early Anglo-Catholics followed suit.
Pusey to the Rescue
After the controversy over Tract 90 had begun in earnest, Edward Bouverie Pusey wrote an extensive defense of the tract called The Articles Treated On in Tract 90 Reconsidered and Their Interpretation Vindicated. Despite the title, Pusey’s work does far more than simply defend Newman. In over two hundred pages, Pusey carefully and painstakingly goes through the same subset of the Articles that Newman treated, showing how a Catholic interpretation roots the Articles in both the Scriptures and the mind of the early Church. While Newman’s tract can be accused of working too hard at trying to harmonize the Articles with Roman Catholic teaching, even going so far as to suggest that there is no essential difference between the teaching of the Articles and the teaching of the Council of Trent, Pusey explicitly denies that the Articles have any “Romanism” within them and happily points out the various ways in which they are “anti-Romanist.” He insists, rather, that the Articles are to be understood in light of the universal witness of the early Church to the meaning of Holy Scripture. “This view,” wrote Pusey, “so far from relaxing the meaning of the Articles, gives them greater stringency, and lays us under a deeper obligation ; since now we are bound to receive them not only on the authority of our immediate mother, but of her, ‘the Jerusalem from above,’ who is the common ‘mother of us all.'” In other words, we do well to remember that whatever we teach in our small Anglican corner of the Catholic Church only has meaning if it is consonant with what the Church as a whole has always taught. Since the Articles reflect that very ancient teaching, Pusey believes they need to be not only upheld but given a full-throated proclamation.
The Articles and a Catholic Future
Alas, for far too many Anglo-Catholics today, Pusey’s words are forgotten. But for Pusey, Newman, F.D. Maurice, and many others in the early days of the Oxford Movement, the catholicity of the 39 Articles meant that upholding them was a non-negotiable. Just as we have Prayer Book Catholics today, it would surely be to the Church’s benefit if we also had 39 Articles Catholics today who do not assume that the discussion on how to interpret the Articles properly ended in 1841. Likewise, it would be good if Anglicans of all stripes today would begin to celebrate the place of the Articles within our tradition, not by figuring out how to bend them to our whims, but by approaching them on their own terms as a distillation of the teaching of the historic Catholic Church.
This blogger also believes that Newman was also arguably correct about the Catholic sense of the Articles, and suggests Newman's analysis seems no different than the analysis of the noted commentator on the Articles Edward Browne.
Last Tuesday, leading representatives of different models of conservative American Protestantism gathered at Biola University to discuss and debate the “Future of Protestantism.” Peter Leithart, an ecumenically-oriented apostle of “Reformational catholicism” faced down Fred Sanders of Biola, a spokesman for the “unwashed masses of low-church evangelicals” and Carl Trueman of Westminster Seminary, an unapologetic representative of Calvinistic confessionalism. Those hoping for a hard-hitting debate, or a quick and full resolution of the questions, were bound to be disappointed: the three interlocutors were much too patient, irenic, and thoughtful for that. No, it was a conversation, and like almost all good conversations, inconclusive, an invitation to further conversation.
Here's the 2.5-hour video:
All three speakers granted that some kind of reunion with Rome (and with Orthodoxy) must be eventual goals for Protestantism, which could not think of itself as the sole bearer of the church’s future. All three insisted therefore that Protestantism should be characterized more by its positive witness than by a negative self-definition over against its enemies. All three also managed to agree that the content of this witness was largely set by the terms of the early Protestant confessions, that the solas of the Reformation constituted fundamental truths that must remain the ground of future Protestant ecumenical engagement. Finally, all agreed that the best forms of ecumenism, for the foreseeable future at least, should be local and ad hoc, involving such small but powerful gestures as learning to pray with and for local Catholic and Orthodox churches. . . .
The differences that did emerge, then, were in part simply dispositional. Leithart is a cheery optimist about Rome’s willingness and ability to reform and meet Protestants half-way, Sanders an optimist about the ability of low-church evangelicals to gradually remedy their defects through patient retrieval of the tradition, Trueman a determined pessimist about both possibilities.
They were also in part theological. On the issue of sacraments, which dominated much of the discussion (partly due to Leithart’s firm insistence on the absolute necessity of weekly communion), Sanders said little, given his low-church Zwinglianism on the issue, Trueman admitted their importance but stressed the centrality of the Word, and Leithart camped out on his own more sociological De Lubacian sacramentology.
They were also in part a matter of pastoral sensibility, with Leithart seeing the greatest pastoral danger in the scandal of disunity, Trueman in the relativization of the doctrines of grace and subsequent weakening of salvific assurance. And of course, part of the difference was rhetorical: Leithart continued to identify “Protestantism” by its most widespread contemporary expressions, and accordingly called for its abolition, while Sanders and Trueman remained puzzled by this odd attempt to define something in terms of its most defective forms, rather than its historic essence.
This last difference, however, highlights perhaps the most important and persistent difference between the speakers, one that remained sadly unexplored: a difference over the nature of history. Put briefly, Leithart was skeptical that there is such a thing as a historical essence to Protestantism, at least one that deserves to be jealously preserved. His stirring opening statement invoked a repeating Biblical pattern of creation, death, and resurrection to new creation to suggest that Protestantism is not a diseased form that needs to be restored to its original health, but the historically-necessary senescence of something bound to die and rise again as some new and unforeseen synthesis. (Leithart’s reference to the neo-Hegelian philosopher Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy suggested that the Hegelian resemblance is no coincidence). Within such a schema, no historical movement, however necessary, valuable, and more-or-less true, can expect to endure unchanged. Thus, despite the resemblance of his “Reformational catholicism” to, well, the Reformation, Leithart would rather free us from the unhealthy attachment to something ultimately bound for replacement. While for Sanders and Trueman, the future of Protestantism must be an extension (not without any change, of course) of its past and present, for Leithart it will be a new, unpredictable work of the Spirit.
I'm with Leithart. I truly can't see it being any other way, especially for classical Anglicanism, which despite its classicality is way ahead of the curve.
Protestantism ought to give way to Reformational catholicism. Like a Protestant, a Reformational catholic rejects papal claims, refuses to venerate the Host, and doesn’t pray to Mary or the saints; he insists that salvation is a sheer gift of God received by faith and confesses that all tradition must be judged by Scripture, the Spirit’s voice in the conversation that is the Church.
Though it agrees with the original Protestant protest, Reformational catholicism is defined as much by the things it shares with Roman Catholicism as by its differences. Its existence is not bound up with finding flaws in Roman Catholicism. While he’s at it, the Reformational catholic might as well claim the upper-case “C.” Why should the Roman see have a monopoly on capitalization?
A Protestant exaggerates his distance from Roman Catholicism on every point of theology and practice, and is skeptical of Roman Catholics who say that they believe in salvation by grace. A Reformational Catholic cheerfully acknowledges that he shares creeds with Roman Catholics, and he welcomes reforms and reformulations as hopeful signs that we might at last stake out common ground beyond the barricades. (Protestants also exaggerate differences from one another, but that’s a story for another day.). . . .
Some Protestants don’t view Roman Catholics as Christians, and won’t acknowledge the Roman Catholic Church as a true church. A Reformational Catholic regards Catholics as brothers, and regrets the need to modify that brotherhood as “separated.” To a Reformational Catholic, it’s blindingly obvious that there’s a billion-member Church of Jesus Christ centered in Rome. Because it regards the Roman Catholic Church as barely Christian, Protestantism leaves Roman Catholicism to its own devices. “They” had a pedophilia scandal, and “they” have a controversial pope. A Reformational Catholic recognizes that turmoil in the Roman Catholic Church is turmoil in his own family. . . .
A Protestant’s heroes are Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and their heirs. If he acknowledges any ancestry before the Reformation, they are proto-Protestants like Hus and Wycliffe. A Reformational Catholic gratefully receives the history of the entire Church as his history, and, along with the Reformers, he honors Augustine and Gregory the Great and the Cappadocians, Alcuin and Rabanus Maurus, Thomas and Bonaventure, Dominic and Francis and Dante, Ignatius and Teresa of Avila, Chesterton, de Lubac and Congar as fathers, brothers, and sisters. A Reformational Catholic knows some of his ancestors were deeply flawed but won’t delete them from the family tree. He knows every family has its embarrassments. . . .
A Protestant is indifferent or hostile to liturgical forms, ornamentation in worship, and sacraments, because that’s what Catholics do. Reformational Catholicism’s piety is communal and sacramental, and its worship follows historic liturgical patterns. A Protestant wears a jacket and tie, or a Mickey Mouse t-shirt, to lead worship; a Reformational Catholic is vested in cassock and stole. To a Protestant, a sacrament is an aid to memory. A Reformational Catholic believes that Jesus baptizes and gives himself as food to the faithful, and doesn’t avoid speaking of “Eucharist” or “Mass” just because Roman Catholics use those words.
Reformational Catholicism meets George Weigel’s Evangelical Catholicism coming from the direction of Rome, and gives it a hearty handshake.
Protestantism has had a good run. It remade Europe and made America. It inspired global missions, soup kitchens, church plants, and colleges in the four corners of the earth. But the world and the Church have changed, and Protestantism isn’t what the Church, including Protestants themselves, needs today. It’s time to turn the protest against Protestantism and to envision a new way of being heirs of the Reformation, a new way that happens to conform to the original Catholic vision of the Reformers.
Just finished this book by Hans Boersma, who holds the J. I. Packer Chair in Theology at Regent College in Vancouver, B.C. Highly recommended. The author calls for a return to the "sacramental ontology" of the Platonist-Christian synthesis of the early Church Fathers. The reviews at the Amazon page are definitely worth reading. Bishop Ray Sutton mentioned the significance of this book in his recent talk on real presence at the ICCA, which I also highly recommend.
William Witt avers in the first discussion linked above,
The long and short of it is, I am highly in favor of ecumenism (with Rome and Orthodoxy). At the same time, I think that the only proper way for ecumenical relations to move forward is that those of us who are Reformation Christians need to recognize that there are reasons that we are not Roman Catholics or Orthodox, and that progress can only take place if ecumenical discussion is a two-way street.
Something else struck me this afternoon about Witt's use of the term "Reformation Christians" with reference to his pro-WO party. Not only have I pointed out something of the irony of Witt & Company's claim to be "Reformation Christians", since all of the Reformers, English and Continental alike, would have viewed their innovation with horror and contempt, but Witt & Company's "Reformation Christian" theological methodology is wholly unAnglican. Let me explain.
As almost any Anglican theologian or church historian worth his salt would tell you, the English Reformation was unlike the Continental Reformation both in terms of its conservatism and its stated appeal to the Church Fathers. It was this very thing that was responsible for stopping the Calvinist trajectory in its tracks under Elizabeth. The Calvinist trajectory being thus supplanted, Anglican divinity embarked on another trajectory which sought to flesh out what the English Reformers claimed about their ressourcement project. Anglicanism took a decidedly Catholic turn under Elizabeth, and then Hooker. The Caroline divines became the bridge between Hooker and the Tractarians, Old High Church complaints about the latter notwithstanding.
As for the "Continuing Reformation Christians" in the Church of England and her offspring, well, they went in two directions. One party became fellow travelers with the "Reformation Christians" on the Continent who morphed into to radical liberal Protestantism. The other party became fellow travelers with the "Reformation Christians" on the Continent (and Scotland) who morphed into radical conservative Protestantism.
The kind of "Reformation Christian" with which Dr. Witt and his gang associate themselves seems to be a hybrid of the two. On the one hand we see this commitment to egalitarianism and feminism that find roots in the radical liberal party, but we see as well a commitment to the radical conservative party that takes the sola scriptura and semper reformanda principles to the nth degree. It's a real witches brew, one that is bubbling in "Evangelical" circles outside of Realignment Anglican ranks. Think of any number of today's Evangelical spokesmen (and, more importantly, its spokeswomen).
Classical Anglicanism, which sought to establish its place in the Great Tradition, has no place for this kind of "Reformation Christianity." It took a completely different tack. We will either affirm it, and behave accordingly, or we'll become something else. Unless they humbly change their minds, Witt & Company have no part in Classical Anglicanism. In that event, I guess we'll have to let them be "Reformation Christians."
Psalm 104, chanted to a wonderful setting by the Bramdean School Chapel Choir.
As I stated here?
Dr. Witt and a person commenting on this question tonight are dismissive of my claim. Per Witt:
As for accusations of “heresy,” yawn. I think it would take some real effort to make a theological case that advocacy of women’s ordination is not simply mistaken, but “heretical.” “Heresy” has to do with a position that is not only theologically mistaken, but touches on the center of Christian faith in such a manner as to distort the central “subject matter” of Christian faith. So Arianism is a “heresy” because (as Athanasius argued), only God can save, and, if Christ is not divine, but only a creature, then he cannot save us.
I don’t see how one could reasonably argue that “male only” clergy is essential to the heart of Christian faith in the same way that Nicene and Chalcedonian orthodoxy are at the heart of Christian faith. Disagreement about this issue is more along the lines of other disagreements between Christians, that while, important are, to some extent, adiaphora. As an Anglican, I disagree with Roman Catholics about transubstantiation, with Lutherans about ubiquity, and with Presbyterians about polity. I don’t think that their views are “heretical.”
Just so it's clear, I do understand the distinction between orthodoxy and orthodopraxis. The ordination of women to the priesthood is an act (praxis), not a belief, so in the technical, ecclesially declarative sense it is not a "heresy." However, I maintain that the practice of women's ordination is still "heretical", and this for two reasons:
1) The definition of αἵρεσις reads as follows: "a self-chosen opinion, a religious or philosophical sect, discord or contention." The belief in some dioceses of the ACNA that women may be ordained to the priesthood, and for some folks in the ACNA, the episcopate, most certainly represents a "self-chosen opinion" held against the consensus not only of the Church Fathers, but of the Reformers (which essentially undoes Witt's assertion that WO defenders are "Reformation Christians"). It most certainly reflects as well the existence of a "religious sect" that promulgates its "self-chosen opinion" in the face of the belief of the vast majority of the world's orthodox Christians. And it most certainly has introduced "discord and contention" into Anglican ranks;
2) The practice is likewise heretical because of the heretical beliefs on which the practice is based. As many opponents of WO have argued, it is possible to discern in various arguments made for the practice, alternatively or together, gnosticism, aberrant triadology, aberrant christology, and an aberrant view of the creation order.
So, Dr. Witt and CarterS, that's our story and we're sticking to it.
If it were possible in our lifetimes to see the Great Schism healed and a great council of the Roman and Orthodox Churches convened to address the issues of the day, I am quite confident that one of those issues would be women's ordination and that the practice would be anathematized, and that precisely for the two reasons I've set forth above. That is, if Rome's and Orthodoxy's current ruminations on what they view as the heresies underlying the practice of WO are any indication. In that hypothetical Witt would certainly be compelled to revise his argument.
But it's a far-fetched hypothetical, so let's return to the issue of how WO is "heretical" here in the current ecclesial situation. A heresy does not necessarity need to be ecclesially defined as such for it to be a heresy. Before a controversy over a perceived departure from orthodox doctrine ever gets raised to conciliar consideration and judgment, the claim that it's a heresy must first be made, somewhere, by someone, after which a controversy ensues. This is where we are right now. The acceptance of WO in Anglican ranks is only a few decades old. Even the ACNA says it's currently in a process of "reception." The issue is not ripe for ecclesial assessment and judgment, though it seems clear that one day it will be. Until then, the debate goes on. Here are a dew examples of others who also call WO a "heresy". (You'll have to slog through the articles to see where the accusations of "heresy" are made.):
Priestesses in Plano (Rearding a position paper issued by Christ Church in Plano, TX (AMiA), which apparently became the basis of an ordination that took place there several months later.)
However, as I read Witt's comments tonight, it's pretty clear that none of this matters to him or other such "Reformation Christians." I suppose that's his way of saying "Nobody gives a . . .". But then again, that has been the attitude of heretics - the holders of a self-chosen opinion over against the Church -- from time immemorial.
A bit of a diversion from the standard fare to bring you this important advertisement. If you get a chance, see this movie when it's released. The Walters are longtime family friends, especially on my wife's side. I took some of my first theology courses from Jim at John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. Jim married us in 1977 and buried my mom in 2007. Lynda hosted my wife's wedding shower and was present at both our marriage and my mom's funeral. One of Jim and Lynda's sons is an Anglican priest.
Lynda went to be with the Beloved in 2012. She spent many long years suffering from MS before she died, and I saw some of that up close and personal when we would visit family in Arkansas. Words would fail if I tried to convey, according to my limited perception, anything about how Jim and Lynda suffered but also how great God's grace was through it. That's why you need to see this movie -- and have it shown at your church.
You'll have to watch the whole video to find out why the question. The prior's words here are of interest to me as someone who deals with terminal illness and death quite frequently. I also appreciate the emphasis on music and beer, however. Looks like this monastery and St. Matthew's Anglican Catholic Church in Newport Beach have roughly the same idea about evangelization. I LIKE it. ;>)
The Sweetness of God's Grace According to Bernard of Clairvaux - The Bridge Between Augustine and Luther
I have argued in this blog that an Augustinian view of grace, though a minority view, is nevertheless a valid theologoumenon (i.e., a non-heretical dogmatic opinion) for a Catholic Christian to hold, and by "Catholic" here I mean decidedly non-Protestant. Bernard of Clairvaux is an example of a Catholic theologian, monk and saint who held a view of grace not substantially different from that of Luther. Linked below is an article in demonstration.
I am currently toying with the proposition that as long as we can appeal to Catholic theologians, monks and saints such as the Augustinian Cistercian Bernard of Clairvaux, we need not claim to be Protestant at all, and that as Anglicans all that is necessary to solve our identity crisis is to identify as Western Catholic Chrisitans. I know it can be argued that it's more complicated than that, so if someone would like to try to talk me out of that conclusion, I'm all ears.
On a related note, I have been interested in Benedictine spirituality for quite some time, and in Bernard I am finding, for a number of reasons, one Benedictine monk (besides Benedict himself) to whom I can strongly relate.
8/18 Update: Dr. Witt has been quick to reply. I will, however, likely forgo responding to whatever replies he posts to my series of rebuttals until I completely make my way through his articles, and that will be awhile. In the meantime, get your popcorn, sit back, and enjoy the show!
8/19 Update: Matt Colvin comments.
As noted in the blog entry below, this is the first in a series of replies to the articles William Witt has posted at his blog in defense of the practice of ordaining women to the Anglican priesthood. This blog post is in reply to the first of Witt's articles, entitled Concerning the Ordination of Women: Preliminaries, dated September 9, 2013.
As you can discern from the title of Witt's article, its intent is to set forth some preliminaries. Commendably, Dr. Witt lays out for all to see some of the biases with which he begins this series of articles. In fact, he is so commendably straightforward that he just about gives up the store. Let's take a look.
He begins by stating his credentials as a defender of orthodox Anglicanism in the vein of C.S. Lewis:
Most of what I write, I hope to be in the flavor of what C.S. Lewis called “mere Christianity.” I prefer to be an apologist for Evangelical Catholic theology from an Anglican perspective. Theologically, my approach tends to be ecumenical, looking for areas of agreement and consensus among orthodox Christians. On the occasions where I have ventured into polemics, it has been in response to the challenges of those who reject this perspective. So I have consistently written against liberal Protestantism, which I think is the great heresy in the church today. I have engaged in argument against those who have challenged the catholicity of Anglicanism on such questions as the development of doctrine.
With that statement of his essential orthodoxy being made, he begins a discussion about the exception to orthodox Anglicanism that he will carve out and defend:
But there are some issues on which I have not written precisely because I have preferred to avoid the kinds of heated polemics that these issues raise. I have not yet written on Christianity and politics. I have not written on women’s ordination.
However, in recent years, a number of people have asked me to write something on women’s ordination, either because they wondered what my position was, or because they knew my position and wanted me to put it in writing. I do endorse the ordination of women, and it is a position endorsed by numerous orthodox Christians. T. F. Torrance, Ben Witherington, N.T. Wright, Richard Hays, Michael Gorman, Robert Gagnon, and Alan Padgett are just some of the male orthodox biblical scholars and theologians who have written in favor of gender equality or women’s ordination or both. The number of orthodox Christians endorsing women’s ordination is not a small or insignificant group. Unfortunately, for whatever reasons, they are not as vocal as those opposed to women’s ordination, and, especially among orthodox Anglicans lately, the loudness at least of those opposed to women’s ordination has reached such a crescendo (at least in public discussion) that one might get the impression that this was a decided issue.
Now, it's of course fallacious to argue or even imply that because a number of noted "orthodox Christians" defend women's ordination ("WO" going forward) that Witt therefore stands in good company. It may be the fact that each and every one of these ostensibly orthodox Christians happens to be heretical on this particular issue, and defenders of the traditional view believe that they are in fact so, their commendable orthodoxy on all the other issues notwithstanding. Also fallacious is the argument that "the number of orthodox Christians endorsing WO is not a small or insignificant group." Size doesn't matter in this discussion. What matters is whether or not WO is an unbiblical and uncatholic innovation.
I have also known a number of orthodox ordained women clergy who are my friends, and whom I greatly admire, and, at the seminary where I teach I have been privileged to have as students women who were among the best students, finest preachers, and some of the most promising theologians of any of my students. I think it would be a great tragedy for the church to deny these women the opportunity to use their gifts and pursue their callings, but, even more, to be served by them. I am writing this series of posts primarily for these women.
So we see here something of the emotional motivation for Witt's series of articles. He has close female friends who have been ordained to the priesthood and valued female students who are headed there. I again want to commend Dr. Witt for his honesty, because there's a lot of emotional fuel here at work in his thinking and writing. Enough emotional fuel, in fact, to create a very bad argument. As I will attempt to show in subsequent responses, this is in fact what happened in Witt's series of articles. But Witt also begs an essential question when he refers to these women's "calling" to the priesthood, for the very question to the apostolic and catholic Christian is whether such a "calling" can even exist.
Dr. Witt continues,
Where I Stand
First things first. I am strongly in favor of the ordination of women, and have been since I was in my twenties. I was raised in a church that did not approve of the ordination of women, and still does not. I left that church for a number of reasons and became an Anglican. The journey from free church Evangelical to sacramental Anglicanism was a long story that took a number of years. My path to Anglicanism and my path to the approval of women’s ordination was the same path, and the theological arguments that led me to the one were of the same kind of arguments that led me to the other. I have never been attracted to theological liberalism, and my reasons for becoming an Anglican had nothing to do with the liberalism of the Episcopal Church. Indeed, I became an Episcopalian because the Episcopal Church was the American representative of Anglicanism. Because the Episcopal Church embraced liberal Protestantism as its official theology at General Convention 2004, I am no longer an Episcopalian, but I am still an Anglican.
Here we get a glimpse into the long-standing nature of Witt's emotional attachment to the proposition that women may be ordained to the Anglican priesthood. He confesses that he rejected the traditional view of ordination he encountered of his free church past, and that this was one of the reasons he was attracted to Anglicanism -- at that time represented in North America by The Episcopal Church. Now that Dr. Witt has found himself in something of a pickle on WO due to the move of Realignment Anglicans out of TEC, he finds it necessary to defend his long-standing emotional commitment to the practice against all those Realignment Anglicans who argue for the traditional view -- and who argue that WO was clearly an unbiblical and uncatholic manifestation of the liberalism Witt decries. (He will go on to argue later in his series that WO and theological liberalism can be delinked.)
Witt then turns his attention to the three basic arguments against WO:
Three Different Kinds of Arguments Against Women’s Ordination
There are basically three different kinds of argument against women’s ordination. The first kinds of arguments are non-theological pragmatic arguments. For example, WO is part of a secular agenda. WO was introduced into the church by liberals. WO will lead the church to liberalism. There is no difference between ordaining women and ordaining practicing gays. These arguments are characterized by their lack of properly theological substance.
More properly theological arguments tend to fall into two different kinds as there are basically two different kinds of traditions that do not ordain women: Protestant arguments and Catholic arguments. By “Protestant,” I mean Christian traditions that have their roots in the Reformation, affirm sola scriptura, do not allow much authority to church tradition or councils, with the exception perhaps of Saint Augustine, and the Reformers, and tend to have a low (if not Zwinglian) view of the sacraments. Some in Reformation churches (such as Anglicans and Lutherans), would not necessarily fall into this category (but there are Anglicans and Lutherans that would). By “Catholic,” I mean Christian traditions that, while affirming the significance of Scripture, also place a high value on church tradition, and have a high view of the sacraments. Churches that fall into this category would include not only Roman Catholics, but also the Orthodox, and some (but not all) Anglicans and Lutherans.
Protestants and Catholics (in the specific sense in which I am using the terms) understand the purpose of ordination differently, and consequently use different theological arguments against women’s ordination.
Witt's assessment at this point is more or less correct, although I would argue that there really isn't such a neat and clean distinction between "Protestant" and "Catholic" arguments as he seems to suggest. While it's true that Evangelical opponents of WO tend not to argue along liturgiological, ecclesiological and other theological lines as Catholics do, it isn't true that Catholic defenders of the traditional view tend to shun the biblical argument for male headship in home and church. Manfred Hauke's magisterial work on the question, Women in the Priesthood: A Systematic Analysis in the Light of the Order of Creation and Redemption, is a prime example of a Catholic scholar who engages the issue exegetically. Conversely, an Evangelical work recently published, One God in Three Persons: Unity of Essence, Distinction of Persons, Implications for Life (Ware and Starke, eds.), is largely focused on a triadological defense of the traditional view. In fact, Catholic and Evangelical defenders of the traditional view are "finding each other", and any Anglican defense of the traditional view will rely heavily on this body of scholarship.
After further detailing the differences between the "Protestant" and "Catholic" approaches, Witt continues with what he believes is another key issue at the heart of the matter,
The Hermeneutical and Theological Difference
It is also important to note that there is a crucial difference between scripture and tradition on the one hand, and hermeneutics on the other. Exegesis and tradition have to do with the difference between understanding what the writers of Scripture taught, and what was taught in the traditions of the church, and how we address the same issues today in a different ecclesial and cultural setting. It is the difference between “what did it mean?” and “what does it mean?,” between what Scripture and tradition said then, and how we apply it today. Too many opponents of WO think that the question can be resolved by a simple appeal to Scripture or tradition. Protestants will appeal to Paul’s prohibitions against women speaking in church or having authority over men. Catholics will appeal to the church’s tradition of ordaining men, and assume that this settles the question. But the question needs to be addressed theologically. Biblical or historical precedent alone is not a theological argument without addressing the theological reasons behind the precedent.
While Witt's previous argument was very straightforward, here he becomes quite obscure. He seems to suggest that when a modern cultural context requires a different interpretation of "scripture and tradition" (that is, with respect to WO) than what an ancient interpretation required, this is somehow a "hermeneutical" issue, which he seems to confuse with the "theological" issue. True, hermeneutics does include the endeavor to understand cultural context in the goal to find modern application, "cultural" arguments aren't necessarily hermeneutical ones. Both the "Protestant" opponents of WO whose emphasis is on the exegetical approach and "Catholics" who emphasize the theological approach understand well the role that understanding of 1st-century culture plays in conservative hermeneutics, but they would argue that the pertinent biblical material in this case is not culturally conditioned, say, as Paul's comments on slavery would be. Surely Witt understands that liberal Episcopalians would argue that the Bible's proscription of homosexual behavior is just as much "culturally conditioned" as is its proscription of WO, and thus because of such a "hermeneutical" consideration 1st-century religious culture must give way to 21st-century secular culture. So, it would seem Witt's argument proves too much. If neo-Anglicans can undo 2,000 years of tradition with respect to WO on the basis of "hermeneutics", liberal Anglicans can do the same with respect to homosexual behavior. He can't have it both ways.
Witt ends this first essay as follows:
One last point. Some topics are, by their nature, polemical. Discussions of politics and women’s ordination inevitably raise hackles. That’s just the way it is. It is not my intention to offend, but some will no doubt take offense at what I write. I wish anger and hurt feelings could be avoided, but this is not a reason not to say things that I think need to be said.
So much for preliminaries. Future posts will consider individual arguments.
Which drew this comment from one Sheri Graham:
Thank you for tackling this issue. I look forward to reading your thoughts and theological reasons for your position. I appreciate your being willing to face the no doubt heated discussion that will arise.
We are compelled to answer Dr. Witt, yes, he has chosen to defend a position that will "raise hackles" and will "no doubt" cause offense. We only hope he will indeed "be willing to face the no doubt heated discussion that will arise." He's made it clear that he will not rise to the occasion of facing his critics on his Facebook page, and that is fair enough, for many people don't want their Facebook page to be a forum for theological debates. But here in the blogosphere and in various and sundry Realignment and Continuing Anglican fora dedicated to the debate of issues that affect orthodox Anglicanism, his arguments will indeed be subjected to scrutiny, not only by insignificant bloggers like me, but by accomplished scholars, Anglican and non-Anglican alike, and of course by our bishops.
Witt's is an argument that is, by his own admission, rooted in an emotional attachment to a notion that close female colleagues and treasured female students have been "called" into the priesthood. His starting point is therefore doubly problematic: 1) emotion should not come to bear in arguments such as these, and 2) the notion that these women have been "called" into the priesthood is begging the essential question, especially when we look at the collective and historical way the Catholic Church has approached this issue of "calling." The Catholic Church -- a branch of which Anglicanism has long claimed itself to be -- recognizes no such "call". Such "calls" originated in Anglican churches only recently, tellingly rooted in an era of various egalitarian, liberationist and feminist ideologies. But Witt's attachment to them lies at the heart of his argument in favor of this unapostolic and uncatholic innovation.
My next reply, whenever it comes, will be to Witt's second essay in favor of WO, Non-theological Arguments Against the Ordination of Women.
I am slowly but surely making my way through blogger and TESM theology professor William Witt's series of articles defending women's ordination, and my intent is to post a reply to each and every article here at the Old Jamestown Church. I'm doing this since it appears, at least at this writing, that no defender of the traditional view in the Anglican Realignment or the Anglican Continuum is making a concerted effort to rebut Witt's work. A few public rebuttals of parts of Witt's argument have been made by Continuing Anglican and Roman Catholic bloggers, but thus far no scholar within ACNA or AMiA seems to have written any replies to Witt. (There is a story about a reply REC Bishop Ray Sutton gave to Witt at a recent gathering of ACNA bishops, but unfortunately was not recorded.) I aim to provide such a written response here at OJC, but I should preface this project with the acknowledgment that there are better minds out there in the ranks of both Realignment and Continuing Anglicanism who could be doing so.
Don't expect my replies to appear here with any kind of frequency. A number of Witt's articles will likely require me to get down to one or more of the theological libraries in the Denver metro area, which is a good 45 minutes to an hour away from where I live. However, I will post a response to Witt's preliminary article in the next blog post.
(For some recent background, see:
I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you.
UPDATE: Never mind. It's public.
This is a good thing. Glad to see it.
I recently tried several times, in vain, to get a noted "Anglican Pentecostal" clergyman to comment on this video. I hope his silence doesn't mean what I think it may mean.